Fisheries and Oceans Canada answers questions after its presentation on the second day of the aquatic environment sessions Tuesday during the federal review panel hearings for the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada answers questions after its presentation on the second day of the aquatic environment sessions Tuesday during the federal review panel hearings for the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

Fish Lake at the heart of panel discussions

Fish Lake was central during Monday and Tuesday's federal review panel hearings for the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

  • Jul. 31, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Fish Lake was central to the aquatic environment presentations held Monday and Tuesday during the federal review panel hearings for the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

Describing himself as a “town crier” Dr. John Stockner, expert witness for the Tsilhqot’in National Government, predicted within a decade Fish Lake will die if the mine was developed.

“It will die for the fish,” Stockner said.

“They simply will be forced in one February night under ice cover and a skim of snow in darkness,  the fish will be forced to the surface of the ice,” Stockner said.

Taseko’s project manager Greg Smyth sought clarification on comments on water treatment made by TNG expert Don MacDonald.

“Were you suggesting the details cannot be worked out in the permitting stage?” Smyth asked.

The central issue around the assessment is whether or not Fish Lake can be preserved, MacDonald responded.

“The information that was generated by the company demonstrates clearly that there would be exceedances of levels that are predicted for individual contaminants to cause adverse effects.”

MacDonald said it’s essential everyone understands all of the measures specifically that are going to be used to assess the water quality of Fish Lake, during the environmental assessment, otherwise it’s not possible to conclude with any certainty that the project can proceed without having adverse effects on the lake.

When asked how his expectations compared to current regulatory guidance for environmental assessments, MacDonald responded he expected to see three years of monthly data collected at key locations at the mine.

“In addition we indicated we would like to see four, five and 30-day sampling events during that three-year period, including two during high flow events and two during low level events,” MacDonald said.

After a presentation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, panel member Ron Smyth said DFO’s presentation highlighted uncertainties about preserving Fish Lake.

“Are there any other ways to reduce these uncertainties so that reviewers can have confidence in the project or are we just left with adaptive management and compensation?” Smyth asked.

DFO has provided some information in its submission on suggestions of improvements that could be made, different mitigation such as channel maintenance flows, and maintaining temperatures, said senior fisheries protection biologist Brenda Rotinsky.

Dr. Daniel Selbie, also part of the DFO team, said there are a lot of factors driving the lake’s system.

“Other presentations have raised concerns about climate change and how that might affect the system,” Selbie said. “We haven’t heard a lot about how the mitigation strategies might have an impact on the aquatic ecology of Fish Lake and how that will translate out to Rainbow Trout populations.”

At the end of the two-day aquatic sessions Tuesday, Taseko responded briefly to the presentations and promised it would submit more in writing to the panel.

“I think some of the presenters may have simplified some of the actual reports they were talking about,” said Ryan Whitehouse, senior aquatic biologist with Triton Environmental.  “In many of the reports the baselines were deemed to be inadequate and that led to uncertainty which leads to an inability for them to properly evaluate the environmental affects.”

Whitehouse said he would be the first to admit the baselines are not necessarily perfect, but Taseko can always collect more data.

“I think the panel will find that Environment Canada recognized the water quality baseline to be adequate to make their decisions and perhaps some of the expectations of the other experts were outside the expectations placed in normal environmental assessment baseline studies.”

Whitehouse also suggested the experts did not deal with the company’s entire report as a whole.

“For instance, they’d pick one thing that they wanted to talk about and disregarded a lot of other things, and sometimes incorrectly even said that we didn’t handle those other things.”

The environment is an extremely complicated thing, Whitehouse said.

“What we’re left with to deal with these complications is perhaps oversimplification, but they are models and there are defensible ways of dealing with it whether they are water quality guidelines, whether they are models to predict productivity.”

Project manager Greg Smyth said there was a large team effort on the project to try and understand all the particular issues around water quality.

“There was a lot of different interaction over many many months to bring this together so there was a good understanding of our respective models by the project team.”

Project manager Scott Jones, “cut to the chase,” on water management and said while no other project may have been required to do what Taseko is proposing — to preserve Fish Lake — each of the components of the system have been proven.

“In short, all of the components of the system have been proven at this scale they just haven’t been put together in the way that we are proposing they be put together,” Jones said.

Taseko’s legal counsel Karl Gustafson said uncertainty was a recurring theme throughout the aquatic environment presentations.

“Certainty is not required for the panel to make its decision,” Gustafson said. “In a proceeding of this nature uncertainty is to be expected.

The assumption is that’s something we have to live with as these kinds of projects evolve in these early stages and then progress through detailed design and permitting.”

On Wednesday the topic-specific hearings switched to terrestrial environment and on Thursday to human environment.

Starting next week the community hearings in First Nations will be begin, with the first sessions in Nemiah Valley on Tuesday Aug. 6. Full transcripts and audio recordings are available on the CEAA website.

 

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Central Mountain Air confirmed it does not plan to resume service to Williams Lake at this time. (Betsy Kline photo)
Central Mountain Air not resuming route to Williams Lake at this time

Scheduled CMA flights will return to Quesnel at the end of June

Gibraltar Mine has started calling back 34 workers laid off on April 27 because it has received its permit to reactive the Gibraltar East Pit. (Taseko Mines Ltd. photo)
Gibraltar Mine receives permit, calling back laid off employees

Mining has begun in the Gibraltar East pit

(RCMP logo)
RCMP investigating early morning assault in Williams Lake

An insecure firearm was located in a residence

Williams Lake City Council rejected a proposal Tuesday at its regular meeting for the city to host a junior A hockey team for the upcoming 2021/22 season. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Council rejects junior A hockey bid in Williams Lake

The proposal has been up for debate the past several months

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Most Read